Retirement With Your New Best Friend

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Oh, the joy of coming home, enthusiastically welcomed by your darling labradoodle or greeted by the soft purr of your rescued tabby. You just can’t put a price on that unconditional love and steadfast companionship or the value that adds to your life. Cuddling, purring, and playtime, for example, and silly antics ripe for sharing hilarious videos. And of course, the emotional bond. It’s not hard to understand why many people see a pet when they picture their retirement years.

Because pets rule …

Sure, we might grumble when Fido begs to be let out in the morning or Kitty meows impatiently for breakfast, but caring for them can actually translate into caring for ourselves. Walking the dog, for example, can improve your overall health. Petting a kitten can help reduce blood pressure and stress. In fact, owning a pet has been shown to increase your brain’s serotonin and dopamine, reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, and give you a sense of purpose. Your pet benefits, too. Adopting one of the millions of pets in shelters can save a life even as it improves yours. Two other amazing gifts come in the forms of structure and friendships. When you care for a pet, routine is practically required. From feeding and walks, to attention and playtime, your day becomes more full and fun. You also don’t have to worry about icebreakers and conversation starters with potential new friends. Pets love doing that work, which means all you have to do is watch your social circle grow.

… most of the time

Negative thinking is practically impossible when your face is being licked. But the fact is pets of all ages take work. Puppies and kittens, in particular, require tons of effort and, perhaps most important, patience. And any pet, with just one minor or major incident, can throw your day off-kilter. Whatever type of pet you consider, be aware of its requirements and make sure you’re up for the task.

Pet practicalities

It may not be easy to find your next pet pal, but it will be worth it — if you take the time to find the right match. It will take a bit of research to figure out which type and size of pet would be ideal for the way you live now and the way you’ll live later.

The right match: Consider your age, health, and personality traits and the temperament and life expectancy of the animal you want to adopt. You’ll also want to select your new friend, in part, based on your anticipated lifestyle five to 10 years down the line.

The size factor: Many choose smaller dogs or cats, which require less food compared to a larger animal, but may also require more attention and care. Choosing your pet pal carefully is important so you don’t find yourself having to surrender a pet you can no longer care for. Who knows? Maybe your ideal pal ends up being a bird, fish, turtle or iguana. Depending on your physical and mental needs, a service pet could be a great choice, too.

Road buddies: If you like to travel in retirement, be sure to plan accordingly and pack favorite blankets and toys for the trip. Consider transport crates or pet seat belts to keep your companion safe. And of course, integrate plenty of stops.

Helping hands: Even the most capable pet owners can get caught off guard. If your pet gets sick or has an emergency, it’s good to have someone you can call for assistance. In some situations, you and a leash may not be enough.

Info within reach: Keep important paperwork (vaccination records, microchip information, etc.) handy in case you need it quickly. It’s also good to have necessary contact numbers (vet and emergency clinic) in plain sight.

Furry finances

The love is priceless; the responsibility is not. If you’re considering adopting an animal, be sure to budget for the recurring costs. Puppies, for example, can add more than $800 in total expenses during the first year alone. So along with a ton of effort and training, deeper pockets may also be required.

For people between ages 40 and 80 who live alone, owning a dog can increase your lifespan by 33 percent and decrease your risk of cardiovascular-related death by 36 percent.

The average American pet owner spends $1,549 per year on a dog and $988 on a cat, most of it on food, vet care, grooming, and boarding. Unforeseen medical costs add to the expenses, especially as an animal ages. In recent years, pet owners have had the option to purchase health insurance to ensure their animal gets the care they need without adding financial stress on the family. For a small monthly premium, you could save big on the unexpected. Depending on the deductible you choose, premiums can be as low as $50.

High affection, no maintenance

For those who can’t commit to caring for an animal companion, there are options. Several researchers and tech companies have introduced lifelike, socially assistive robo-pets for use in elder care or special needs environments. These amazingly realistic pals are making a mark in the medical field as much as they do on hearts.

Studies have shown that robo-pets can have a calming effect on people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other dementias. From puppies and kittens, to otters and many more, these “pets” help soothe anxiety and reduce isolation. Many nursing facilities are now incorporating robo-pets into their animal therapy programs, particularly helpful if someone becomes agitated in the middle of the night.

It may seem odd at first, but anecdotal reports show that those who interact with robotic therapy pets seem to receive rewards that are as real as it gets. If you still want the real deal, consider fostering or borrowing a pet for a day or two. Several apps and nonprofits help connect animal lovers with shelter animals that need companionship, too.

With just a little research, retirees who would like the perfect buddy can enjoy one of the most priceless bonds imaginable, without breaking the bank. The key is finding the pet that is right for you and your family. So if you’re ready for some licking, laughter and tail wagging, get digging!

A pretty penny

Americans, collectively, spend billions on our pets. Take a look at where our money went in 2017.

Sources: agingcare.com; aginginplace.org; caninejournal.com; forbes.com; mnn.com; nature.com; nytimes.com; pettraveltales.com; thepetgazette.com; American Pet Products Association

As featured in WORTHWHILE, a quarterly periodical dedicated to serving the clients of

Raymond James advisors and aligned advisory firms. © 2018 Raymond James & Associates, Inc., member New York Stock Exchange/SIPC © 2018 Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC Investment products are: not deposits, not FDIC/NCUA insured, not insured by any government agency, not bank guaranteed, subject to risk and may lose value. 17-WorthWhile-0028 CW 11/18